The appeal of grocery delivery services is understandable: avoid the long check-out lines, save time, and get your bread and paper towels dropped off at your door. However, the increasing number of delivery drivers on our roads will lead to more car crashes and life-changing injuries. This is especially true now that many services are decreasing their driver’s compensation, encouraging them to drive longer and faster to maintain their income.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a collision caused by a grocery delivery driver, keep reading to learn more about these crashes and who may be financially responsible.
Grocery Delivery Services Are Growing in Popularity
Ordering groceries through Shipt, Instacart, and Peapod can be convenient when you’re out of milk, and you have a fully packed schedule. Although the number of people in the U.S. who shop for groceries online is still a minority, it’s becoming increasingly popular. According to a 2019 survey, more than 36% of adults who use the internet buy groceries online – up from 23% during the previous year.
As grocery delivery services become more common, we will likely see an increasing number of delivery driver crashes. Most third-party delivery services pay their drivers based on complicated systems that consider the size of the order, the driver’s reviews, and the driving distance involved. Like rideshare companies and other gig-based services, these companies are cutting bonuses and pay rates to stay profitable. Today, many drivers struggle to make a living and feel compelled to work long hours and push themselves to the limit. Unfortunately, tired and rushed drivers cause crashes.
The Delivery Driver: Commercial Driving May Result in Denied Coverage
Like all motorists, grocery delivery drivers must operate their vehicles safely, keep a lookout, and follow the rules of the road. When they violate these duties and cause a crash, the driver may be financially responsible for the victims’ injuries. While every injury claim is different, grocery store delivery claims frequently involve a specific challenge: insurance coverage.
Personal Insurance Policies May Not Cover Delivery Driving
If you ever look closely at your auto insurance policy, you’ll probably find a clause that denies insurance coverage if you’re engaging in a for-profit activity at the time of a crash. This exclusion is frequently cited by insurance companies when they deny claims involving delivery drivers.
Unfortunately, many drivers are unaware that their personal auto insurance policies won’t cover their delivery driver gig. They assume that because they have an insurance policy, they’re good to go. But when the driver causes your catastrophic injuries, they discover that their “full coverage” policy doesn’t apply to your crash because they were making a delivery.
What Is Commercial Auto Insurance?
Commercial auto insurance covers vehicles owned by a business or used for a business purpose. It takes the place of a driver’s personal liability insurance if they cause a crash while on the job. Unlike rideshare companies, most grocery delivery services do not provide commercial auto insurance for their independent contractors. However, some responsible delivery drivers do purchase their own commercial coverage.
If the delivery driver who caused your crash has a commercial policy, you will need to file a claim with the insurance company. Your injury lawyer can help you with this process and explain your legal options.
Companies Instacart and Shipt Do Their Best to Avoid Liability
When a delivery driver causes a crash, you’ll understandably turn your attention to the billion-dollar company that they work for. However, because the drivers are typically independent contractors, companies like Shipt and Instacart will try to deny liability. While an employer is liable for the acts of their employees, it’s not as simple when the individual is a contractor.
To understand this challenge, let’s take a closer look at the grocery delivery service Instacart, a popular service in San Antonio, Texas, and nationwide. When drivers sign up with Instacart, they must sign a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of their relationship with the company.
A significant amount of Instacart’s agreement is designed to make it difficult for anyone to hold them liable for a car crash—or anything else.
“But when the driver causes your catastrophic injuries, they discover that their “full coverage” policy doesn’t apply to your crash because they were making a delivery.”
Like most grocery delivery services, Instacart does not provide commercial auto insurance for drivers. Its contract states this, right after “Instacart does not provide or require training.” Furthermore, the contract notes that while certain jurisdictions may require commercial auto insurance, it is the responsibility of the independent contractor to determine what insurance they are required to have.
In other words, Instacart states right in the agreement that they are not responsible for providing or even confirming that their independent drivers have the proper insurance coverage.
Holding a Delivery Service Liable for Negligent Hiring
There is one area of responsibility that delivery apps may be unable to avoid: their hiring procedures. You may be able to hold a grocery delivery company responsible for negligent hiring practices if you can prove that the service hired a driver with:
- A record of dangerous driving
- A history of drug or alcohol abuse
- A suspended license
- A known medical condition that makes driving unsafe
Since delivery apps are a new phenomenon, the laws surrounding their liability are still developing. If you have questions about Shipt or Instacart’s responsibility for your damages, contact our office for an assessment.
Depending on the service’s contracts and the situation surrounding your crash, an experienced attorney may also be able to prove their negligence and liability in an area other than hiring.
Grocery Stores With In-House Delivery Drivers May Be Liable for a Crash
Some stores offer in-house delivery services, where an employee picks up your groceries and delivers them. For instance, some, but not all, Walmart stores offer grocery delivery services and hire “associate delivery drivers” as employees.
Under these circumstances, a legal theory called “vicarious liability” applies. When an employee acts negligently during the course of their employment, the employer is responsible for the damages they cause. If you can prove than an employee negligently caused your injuries, the store’s sizeable insurance policies will come into play.
Filing a Claim With Your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Policy
Finally, if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, you should also file a claim with your insurance company. UM/UIM policies step in and provide additional compensation when a driver’s policy cannot fully cover your damages.
Since many insurance policies exclude delivery driving from their coverage, your UM/UIM policy may be your only option after a grocery delivery driver crash.
Crosley Law Stands Up For Victims of Delivery Vehicle Crashes
Delivery vehicle crashes are becoming a growing concern nationwide. At Crosley Law, we have a long history of handling cases involving commercial vehicles and drivers. If you or a loved one have been injured by a grocery delivery driver, contact our attorneys today. Call us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or complete our online form to get started.
Redman, R. (14 May, 2019). Study: number of online grocery shoppers surges. Supermarket News. Retrieved from https://www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/study-number-online-grocery-shoppers-surges
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.